Magnum – The Monster Roars

7/10

I discovered Magnum way back in 1978 when they released their debut album “Kingdom of Madness” and I was immediately impressed by the music as well as the musicianship. Their follow up “Magnum II” was just as good. I also managed to catch them live at the Reading festival in 1980. Unfortunately, by then their excellent keyboard player Richard Baily was out of the band replaced by Mark Stanway. Not that Mark was a bad choice, but without Richard there was no more flute in the music, something that for me was an extra bonus on the two first albums. It took a couple of years before Magnum’s third album “Chase the Dragon” was released and despite the lack of flute this album was almost as good as the two first albums, and the same goes for the follow up “The Eleventh Hour” from 1983. That year I also saw the band live twice, once at the Marquee Club in London and a second time at The Readding Festival. By this time Magnum was one of my favorite bands in the pomp rock genre, but then something happened. The band changed direction away from the pomp and prog style and I lost interest.

It wasn’t until 2007 when Magnum released “Princess Allice and the Broken Arrow” that the music once again, to my ears, reached the style and excellence of the first four albums and it didn’t hurt that they also once again started to use art from the amazing Rodney Mathews for the album covers. Of course, it took me a couple of years after the release to realize this, but after doing so I started to check out the other albums that they had released after “Princess Allice and the Broken Arrow”. All albums from then to now are excellent and pretty much just as good as the four first albums, and once again I’m a huge fan of Magnum. All these albums have amazing covers by Rodney Mathews whom in my opinion is now a very important part of the full Magnum experience.

So, when the news about the release of “The Monster Roars” reached me, I was very excited and as the first song “I Won’t Let You Down” released from it was pretty good I was looking forward to a new great album from the Magnum camp. But then we got a picture of the cover, and it was not by Mathews. This was both disappointing and worrying, and after that we got a second track “No Steppin’ Stones” featuring horrible horns and music that sounded more like Huey Lewis than Magnum. Now I was really worried…

Thankfully, that was the only bad track on the album. The rest of the songs varies from good to very good, which means that this is the ninth great album in a row that Magnum has delivered since kind of going back to their pomp roots. I actually like all the songs except the horrible “No Steppin’ Stones”. The music on the rest of the songs is both classic Magnum as well as exploring new dimensions of their style and sound. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes suggestive, and always engaging.

This line up delivers with musical expertise. Tony Clarkin is just as good as ever as is Bob Catley, even though his voice is more seasoned than it once was, but that is not a bad thing at all. Rick Benton who replaced Mark Stanway in 2018 is a perfect fit for the band both with his playing as well with his sometimes use of more vintage sounding keyboards. The “new” bassist Dennis Ward, he was first heard on “The Serpent Rings” from 2020, gives the music an extra dimension with his great bass lines as well as with his backing vocals. Lee Morris , the drummer who joined the band at the same time as Rick Benton, on “Lost on the Road to Eternity” from 2018, is flawless as well. This might be the bands best lineup since the original one.

It’s really hard to pick a favorite song on “The Monster Roars” as I really like them all, except for one song that is, the horrible “No Steppin’ Stones”. However, if I must pick some it will have to be “Remember” “All You Believe In” “The Day After the Night Before” and “Come Holy Men”. It’s not the best album since the return to form but it is a great and solid album.

Finally, the album artwork, its not bad, but it lacks that special Magnum feeling we get with Rodney Mathews. It also means that I won’t buy the vinyl this time as the ridiculously high vinyl prices now is far too expensive these days. So, if the artwork experience doesn’t need the bigger format, as Rodney Mathews art does, I’m not willing to pay that much for a vinyl, especially when there is no CD enclosed as it has been on earlier vinyl releases. No, this time I’m content with the CD.

Unfortunately, the inclusion of the horrible “No Steppin’ Stones” takes away one point in my grading of the album. Still a must for any serious Magnum fan.

Line-up:
Bob Catley – Vocals
Tony Clarkin – Guitar
Rick Benton – Keyboards
Dennis Ward – Bass
Lee Morris – Drums

Band: Magnum
Title: The Monster Roars
Label: Steamhammer / SPV
Date of release: January 14, 2022
Rate: 7/10
Stand out tracks:
“Remember”
“All You Believe In”
“The Day After The Night Before”
“Come Holy Men”

Magnum – The Monster Roars

January 14, 2022

The music on the rest of the songs is both classic Magnum as well as exploring new dimensions of their style and sound. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes suggestive, and always engaging.

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